We all know Maui is paradise. But what you may not know is that Maui is also one of the most naturally and culturally diverse islands in the world. From the misty rainforests of Haikü and the rugged peaks of Haleakalä to the palm-fringed beaches of Wailea, Maui is indisputable proof that variety is indeed the spice of life.
Just like snowflakes, no two places are exactly alike on Maui, which means there truly is something for everyone here. I call it “variations of perfection.”
South Maui (Wailea, Makena and Kïhei):
Arguably, there is an intrinsic appeal to any coastal community, but I believe South Maui gives the rest a run for their money. There’s a reason why visitors flock here year-round—and why I chose to build a home here. Considered by many to be the crown glory of Maui, Wailea, Makena and Kïhei boast pristine white sand beaches, impossibly blue waters and breathtaking sunsets that inspire the inner romantic in each of us.
Like me, if you’re inclined to indulge in sun, sand or surf, the perpetually sunny and dry (South Maui averages less than 15 inches of rainfall annually) climate is guaranteed to deliver optimum beach time, day or night. Just a 26 minute drive from Kahului Airport, it is an easily accessible area, with two, main intersecting roadways (the Pi‘ilani Highway and South Kïhei Road), convenient bus routes and ample parking.
But what sets this seaside community apart from the rest of the island is that it has just about everything under the sun (and I mean that quite literally). You’ll find an assortment of retail shops and award-winning restaurants to suit every taste and budget, as well as a dizzying array of amphibious activities, such as SCUBA diving, surfing, stand-up paddling, kayaking, nature hikes, marine education courses, sunset dinner cruises, tennis and some of the best golfing in the world.
But wait, there’s more. South Maui is brimming with cultural events, farmers markets, craft fairs, a vibrant nightlife scene featuring live music and entertainment and “Hawai‘I’s Answer to Sundance,” the world-renowned Maui Film Festival.
And that’s just to name a few.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the piece de resistance of South Maui: From November to April, pods of humpback whales make their annual voyage just a few miles offshore, offering spectators a rare opportunity to witness one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts.
This is, as the saying goes, just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much to see, do and experience here, which is why Wailea, Makena and Kïhei are three of the most coveted locations on Maui.
Of course, I may be a bit biased. After all, I do live here.
West Maui (Lahaina, Ka‘anapali, Kapalua and Napili):
West Maui was once the playground of the Hawaiian royals, and today, it’s an equally coveted destination for those seeking the royal treatment. The popular “resort towns” of Lahaina, Ka‘anapali practically burst at the seams with things to do, places to go and people to see.
You’ll find a lot of people in the water here—surfing, paddling, parasailing, swimming and snorkeling—and for good reason. West Maui is arid and hot.
Along Front Street, Lahaina’s iconic promenade, there is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, museums, retail shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, live music and entertainment and the world-famous Banyan Tree Park, where you can enjoy the cool reprieve of the shade from a 60-foot-tall Banyan tree.
Throughout the year, both Lahaina and Ka‘anapali host a variety of special events, including the Halloween Celebration (dubbed the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific”), King Kamehameha Day Parade, the International Festival of Canoes and the Taste of Lahaina.
Further down the Honoapi‘ilani Highway, you’ll find a slower pace of life in Kapalua and Napili, not to mention some of the world’s most legendary golf courses (Kapalua hosts the PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the LPGA Classic Tournament and the Mercedes Championship each year).
If you want some R&R or to escape from the “real world,” West Maui can certainly deliver. Depending on weather and traffic conditions, it’s a 45-minute drive from Kahului Airport, and it is only accessible by Honoapi‘ilani Highway—unless you have a private jet or helicopter, of course.
North Shore (Pä‘ia, Ha‘ikü and Spreckelsville):
When it comes to small town charm and character, Maui’s North Shore has the market cornered.
We call it the “wet” side of the island, which is why it’s not uncommon to see a rainbow or two while cruising along Häna Highway, and if you plan on spending a day at the beach there, I’d recommend bringing an umbrella. The North Shore is also considerably quiet and mellow (at least, compared to rest of Maui), which is why many residents travel to other areas of the island for business and pleasure.
But the North Shore is best known for its unique wind and surf conditions, which has made it one of the world’s premiere destinations for surfers, kitesurfers and windsurfers (H‘ookipa Beach Park is known “Windsurfing Capital of the World” and “Jaws” is appropriately named for its jaw-dropping big wave surfing).
If you’re not into extreme sports, though, don’t worry. The North Shore offers plenty of other outdoor activities and adventures, as well as opportunities to enjoy some “quiet time” with your family. In fact, you might just find me there one Sunday afternoon with my daughters, collecting seashells along the beach.